2011’s “L.A. Noire” was a gritty detective game set in 1940s Los Angeles that focused more on solving crimes than on shooting bad guys — a major departure for Rockstar Games, the folks behind the “Grand Theft Auto” and “Red Dead Redemption” franchises.
And in 2017, “L.A. Noire” is getting reborn on modern hardware: the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.
The game is on the verge of launching, on November 14, but I got a chance to check out the game early during a meeting at Rockstar’s New York City headquarters this week. Here’s what it’s like!
Rather than hijacking cars and shooting at anyone in your way, 'L.A. Noire' is about working police cases.
There are moments when you'll pull your gun, and even some shootouts. You're just as likely to pull your gun to get a perp to surrender, though. 'L.A. Noire' is not a game about shooting, or car chases, or running down suspects.
That stuff is in the game, but it's not the focus.
You're just as likely to meticulously look through a crime scene as you are to chase down a suspect.
More than just updating the game's graphics, the new version of 'L.A. Noire' for Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 adds a variety of new ways to interact with the game. On the Switch, for instance, you can use motion controls and the Switch's touchscreen to explore environments.
In practice, the touchscreen stuff seemed really useful. The motion stuff, however, felt like something I would never use.
The focus of the gameplay in 'L.A. Noire' is telling whether or not people are lying. To that end, a tremendous amount of detail is lavished on facial animations.
While speaking with this gentleman, for instance, I was watching his face for lies based on speech patterns and facial recognition.
The choices you make in these interactions shape how the story plays out, and what information you get from the interrogation.
Rockstar worked with an Australian development studio to produce 'L.A. Noire' back in 2011 -- Team Bondi. The 2017 version of 'L.A. Noire' is being handled internally by Rockstar Games.
In both versions of the game, ultra-detailed face motion scans were captured. This is an especially important aspect of 'L.A. Noire,' as being able to tell whether or not an interrogation subject is lying requires reading their facial expressions and eye movements -- just like real detective work.
'L.A. Noire' is set in 1940s Los Angeles, and uses real cases as inspiration for the cases you play in the game.
I played 'L.A. Noire' on a Switch in handheld mode, which enabled me to use touchscreen controls. It was quickly apparent that the game is a good fit for the Switch. Being able to take the game anywhere with me is a major benefit, and the touchscreen controls made detective work easier than ever -- simply touch objects in the world, then rotate them by moving your finger on the screen.
If anything, playing 'L.A. Noire' on the Switch made me realise that the game would probably work on an iPad just as well.
Driving around 1940s Los Angeles is half the fun of 'L.A. Noire.' It's not quite as open as a 'Grand Theft Auto' game, but there's plenty to gawk at.
And yes, that familiar face is the guy who played Ken Cosgrove on 'Mad Men.' He acts and voices the main character in 'L.A. Noire,' Cole Phelps.
His real name is Aaron Staton, and he plays Cole Phelps -- a World War II vet who's working his way through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department. Though he starts as a standard patrol officer, he works his way up to the homicide department as the game progresses. That means grislier crimes, and far more gruesome crime scenes -- perfect for playing next to strangers on public transportation!